Our updated Privacy Policy takes effect today, March 1. As you use our products one thing will be clear: it’s the same Google experience that you’re used to, with the same controls.

And because we’re making these changes, over time we’ll be able to improve our products in ways that help our users get the most from the web.

While we’ve undertaken the most extensive user education campaign in our history to explain the coming changes, we know there has been a fair amount of chatter and confusion.

Here are a few important points to bear in mind:

Our Privacy Policy is now much easier to understand.

We’ve included the key parts from more than 60 product-specific notices into our main Google Privacy Policy—so there’s no longer any need to be your own mini search engine if you want to work out what’s going on. Our Privacy Policy now explains, for the vast majority of our services, what data we’re collecting and how we may use it, in plain language.

Our Privacy Policy will enable us to build a better, more intuitive user experience across Google for signed-in users.

If you’re signed in to Google, you expect our products to work really beautifully together. For example, if you’re working on Google Docs and you want to share it with someone on Gmail, you want their email right there ready to use. Our privacy policies have always allowed us to combine information from different products with your account—effectively using your data to provide you with a better service. However, we’ve been restricted in our ability to combine your YouTube and Search histories with other information in your account. Our new Privacy Policy gets rid of those inconsistencies so we can make more of your information available to you when using Google.

So in the future, if you do frequent searches for Jamie Oliver, we could recommend Jamie Oliver videos when you’re looking for recipes on YouTube—or we might suggest ads for his cookbooks when you’re on other Google properties.

Our privacy controls aren’t changing.

The new policy doesn’t change any existing privacy settings or how any personal information is shared outside of Google. We aren’t collecting any new or additional information about users. We won’t be selling your personal data. And we will continue to employ industry-leading security to keep your information safe.

If you don’t think information sharing will improve your experience, you can use our privacy tools to do things like edit or turn off your search history and YouTube history, control the way Google tailors ads to your interests and browse the web “incognito” using Chrome. You can use services like Search, Maps and YouTube if you are not signed in. You can even separate your information into different accounts, since we don’t combine personal information across them. And we’re committed to data liberation, so if you want to take your information elsewhere you can.

We’ll continue to look for ways to make it simpler for you to understand and control how we use the information you entrust to us. We build Google for you, and we think these changes will make our services even better.

This week we’re attending the 27th annual CSUN International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. As the Internet evolves, screen readers, browsers and other tools for accessibility need to grow to meet the complexity of the modern web. Conferences like CSUN are an opportunity to check in with web users with disabilities: not just to share our progress in making online technologies accessible, but to also discuss improvements for the future.

Who are these users? In August, we conducted a survey with the American Council of the Blind, to find out more about how people with sight impairment use the web. We received nearly 1,000 responses from people who are blind or visually impaired, from a wide range of professions in 57 countries: teachers, software developers, social workers, writers, psychologists, musicians and students. The results paint a picture of why it is critical to improve the accessibility of web applications. Of the respondents:
  • Almost 90 percent reported regularly using the web to keep in touch with friends and family
  • Over half use a smartphone, and over half own more than one computer
  • Over two-thirds of respondents said they use social media
  • Over 50 percent have completed a baccalaureate degree, and of those, 30 percent have gone on to to postgraduate studies at the masters' or Ph.D. level
  • Of those who are currently students, over 70 percent have their assistive technology provided for by their school
  • However, for those who have left school and are of working age, 46 percent are unemployed
Better web accessibility has the potential to increase educational and employment opportunities, provide social cohesion and enable independence for the people with disabilities. We imagine a future for the web where the most visually complex applications can be rendered flawlessly to screen readers and other assistive devices that don't rely on sight, using technologies that work seamlessly on browsers and smartphones.

[click here for audio description]

Since we last attended CSUN, we’ve made several improvements to the accessibility of our products:
If you're attending CSUN 2012, we hope you'll come up and say hello at one of our talks on the accessibility of our products, including the use of video in Google+ and Docs and accessibility on Android devices. And Friday we’ll host a Q&A Fireside chat with Google product teams. You can also try some of these improvements out at our two hands-on demo sessions on Thursday, in the Connaught breakout room:
  • 10am to 12pm—Chromebooks and new features in Google Apps
  • 1pm to 3pm—Android 4.0 Galaxy Nexus phones
If you're not attending CSUN 2012, we'd love to hear your thoughts on accessibility in our web forum.

Part of what makes Google such a fun place to work is that there’s always something going on: diverse talks, lunchtime concerts, impromptu game tournaments, you name it—all wrapped up with a collective passion for building a better web. So when we were thinking of what we should do for this year’s SXSW, it was pretty obvious: let’s package up a few of the things that we love about Google and bring them with us to Austin, Texas.

Interactive talks
Our participation kicks off on Friday, March 9, in a fireside chat where senior vice president Vic Gundotra will discuss the future of the Google+ project with Guy Kawasaki. We also have Googlers speaking on more than 25 panels, covering topics as varied as the design of Google and YouTube, changing the world through hacking and WebGL’s impact on the web.

Google Village
On March 10-11 we’ll open up the Google Village. We’re taking over Rainey Street (just a few steps away from the Austin Convention Center), setting up shop in four houses and packing them full of demos, drinks, talks and, of course, live music. Here’s what you can expect at each of the houses:

  • Android House: We’re showcasing the latest and greatest from Android, including phones and tablets running Android 4.0, live music on the backyard stage, and a look at cool entertainment for your device.
  • Google Maps House: Interested in enhancing Google Maps with biking directions or updating the business information in your local neighborhood? We'll show you how, plus many other ways you can add more map data to the places you know and love.
  • Developer House: Participate in code labs and spend a day with the team building LEGO® MINDSTORMS® race bots controlled by Android, leading up to the ultimate rumble Sunday evening. Learn more on the Developers Blog.
  • Discovery House: Find out more about our latest creative and advertising products, and see how Google can help you expand your business—or maybe start one.

Live from the Lot
There’s no place like Austin for live music, and on March 15-16 Google Music and YouTube Presents will host Live from the Lot, two days of concerts atop a downtown parking garage. We’ll have performances by The Shins, Gossip, The Ting Tings, Best Coast and Heartless Bastards, to name a few. If you can't make it in person, tune in online for a full live stream of both days’ shows at

Plus, artists officially showcasing at SXSW can also stop by our artist lounge at Live from the Lot to relax and recharge with food, laundry machines, massages and more.

Get more details about our plans for SXSW on our website. The trucks just finished packing up the last Android statue, and we’re all ready to go. It’s Austin or bust—hope to see you there!

Update March 2: Follow ongoing updates about SXSW on their Google+ page. And don't forget to use the hashtag #GoogleSXSW to share your experiences at the Google Village and our other events.

Time to polish the champagne flutes and brush up on your movie trivia—it’s almost Oscar night again. Before you make any Oscar bets, get an edge by exploring Google Insights for Search. Out of the major entertainment awards shows (Tonys, Emmys, Grammys) the Oscars are the most popular in terms of search volume, and as we discovered last year, patterns in search behavior can help us predict which stars will go home with shiny gold statues. So without further delay, let’s open the (search) envelopes and see who the Oscar (may) go to this year.

Best Picture
Last year we found that for three years running, the films that won best picture had two things in common when it came to search data. First, the winning movies had all shown an upward trend in search volume for at least four consecutive weeks during the previous year. Second, within the U.S. the winning film had the highest percentage of its searches originating from the state of New York. Looking at search data for 2011, there were three films that satisfied these conditions—The King’s Speech, The Social Network and Black Swan. Our prediction was on the mark: The King’s Speech took home the Oscar in 2011.

This year, if we assume the two “winning conditions”—at least four consecutive weeks of increasing search volume plus highest regional interest from New York—will apply, then we can narrow down the nominees to a field of four: The Artist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Midnight in Paris and War Horse. But how to go from four to one?

Let’s again look back at last year’s finalists. When you compare search query volumes for The King’s Speech, The Social Network and Black Swan, the winning film, The King’s Speech, had the lowest search volume throughout the year leading up to the Oscars. It was the underdog that took home the statue.

We tried the same test on the Best Picture nominees from 2010. The nominated movies in 2010 that met the two conditions were The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds. Once again, it was the the winning film, The Hurt Locker, that had lower search volume in 2009.

If the underdog trend holds this year, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close could be our surprise winner. If we go strictly by search popularity, however, The Artist or Midnight in Paris have the best chances—among our group of four, they’re currently blowing the competition out of the water.

If we’re having a popularity contest, it’s only fair to look at all nine nominees for best picture. A 2-step comparison shows that the most popular films by search volume are The Help and Martin Scorsese's Hugo.

Best Actor
Of this year’s five nominees for Best Actor, Brad Pitt (Moneyball) is clearly the most popular—searches for Brad in the last 12 months far outpace any of the other leading men, as was the case in 2009 when he was nominated for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. However, it could be Brad’s famous good looks that have us searching, which brings about a good point: the most searched-for nominee doesn’t guarantee a win. James Franco had the highest search volume in 2011 but Colin Firth won, and in 2010, George Clooney was the most-searched nominee but Jeff Bridges took home the Oscar.

The pattern emerging over the past few years is that the winner is generally in the middle of the pack in terms of searches and has relatively steady search volume throughout the year. First-time nominee Gary Oldman (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) fits that bill this year, but so does George Clooney (The Descendants). Maybe it will finally be George’s year to win Best Actor.

Best Actress
For the past three years, the eventual Best Actress winner has seen a spike of interest in the preceding December. Additionally, two of the three most recent winners have had the strongest regional interest within the U.S. from the cities of Los Angeles and New York City (2010 winner Sandra Bullock is the exception).

Among this year’s nominees, Rooney Mara is the clear breakout star, with a huge surge in search volume this past December for the young lead in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, it’s Meryl Streep who has the highest regional interest in NYC and while Rooney is popular in LA, she’s even more popular in San Francisco. So it could be her name that is announced when the envelope is opened—or not.

Of course, we don’t have a Magic 8-Ball or access to the names in those top-secret envelopes, so our predictions are just that—but it’s always enjoyable to look at how what people are interested in online plays out in the real world. As you prepare for your Oscar viewing parties this year, put a visit to Insights for Search on your checklist before the red carpet walk begins (fun fact: searches for [red carpet] peak at Oscar time every year). Between dry cleaning your tuxedo and making hors d'oeuvres, tune in to a pre-Oscar hangout on the +Good Morning America page, where the live discussion will be the fashion dos and don'ts of the big night. You can also stay up to date on all Oscar news on +Oscars, the official Google+ Page of the Academy Awards.

Today we’re making it easier for you to hone in on that perfect image or explore your topic visually with an update to related search links. Related search links have been around for awhile—they’re the row of blue links running across the top of your image search results—but today we’re making them more visual to help you find exactly what you’re looking for or just have fun exploring.

For example, when planning a trip to Greece, I may not know what places are worth a visit, so I search for [greece] on Image Search. Now, with more visual search links, I can hover over the links on the top of the results, like [santorini greece], and see a panel pop up with images of Santorini. Without having to type more words into the search box or clicking through, I can quickly glance at the pictures of Santorini. If I decide to click through, I find new links for further refined or related searches, such as [oia santorini greece] or [santorini greece sunset]. Now I’m sold, I want to see more Santorini images.

You’ll start to see these links whenever you search for images as we roll this change out globally over the next few weeks.

(Cross-posted on the Inside Search blog)

As I was sitting on the ferry commuting to Google’s Sydney office this morning, two thoughts occurred to me. First, Australia is beautiful. If you’ve never been here, you really should visit. And second, it’s amazing how productive I can be with just my Android phone and an Internet connection. I was responding to email, reading news articles and editing documents—just like I do at the office. Only the view was better!

We want to give everyone the chance to be productive no matter where they are, so today we’re releasing a new update to the Google Docs app for Android. We've brought the collaborative experience from Google Docs on the desktop to your Android device. You'll see updates in real time as others type on their computers, tablets and phones, and you can just tap the document to join in.

We also updated the interface to make it easier to work with your documents on the go. For example, you can pinch to zoom and focus on a specific paragraph or see the whole document at a glance. We also added rich text formatting so you can do things like create a quick bullet list, add color to your documents, or just bold something important. Watch the new Google Docs app in action:

If you want to hear about the latest Docs news or send us feedback on the new app, visit Google Docs on Google+.

Gotta run—I’ve got another ferry to catch!

We launched Google Public DNS in December 2009 to help make the web faster for everyone. Today, we’re no longer an experimental service. We’re the largest public DNS service in the world, handling an average of more than 70 billion requests a day.

DNS acts like the phone book of the Internet. If you had to look up hundreds or thousands of phone numbers every day, you’d want a directory that was fast, secure and correct. That’s what Google Public DNS provides for tens of millions of people.

Google Public DNS has become particularly popular for our users internationally. Today, about 70 percent of its traffic comes from outside the U.S. We’ve maintained our strong presence in North America, South America and Europe, and beefed up our presence in Asia. We've also added entirely new access points to parts of the world where we previously didn't have Google Public DNS servers, including Australia, India, Japan and Nigeria.

Shortly after launch, we made a technical proposal for how public DNS services can work better with some kinds of important web hosts (known as content distribution networks, or CDNs) that have servers all of the world. We came up with a way to pass information to CDNs so they can send users to nearby servers. Our proposal, now called “edns-client-subnet,” continues to be discussed by members of the Internet Engineering Task Force. While we work with the IETF, other companies have started experimenting with implementing this proposal.

We’ve also taken steps to help support IPv6. On World IPv6 Day, we announced our IPv6 addresses: 2001:4860:4860::8888 and 2001:4860:4860::8844 to supplement our original addresses, and

Google Public DNS’s goal is simple: making the web—really, the whole Internet!—faster for our users. If you’d like to try it yourself, please see our page Using Google Public DNS. For more information, please see our Introduction to Google Public DNS and Frequently Asked Questions.

It’s Valentine’s Day, and all you need is love.

Well, maybe you need a few more things.

This year, lovebirds in the U.S. are pulling out all the stops and are expected to hit a 10-year spending high on romantic goods. Whether you’re looking for a box of chocolates or buying a diamond ring, we’ve taken notes on how Google can turn any last-minute Cupid into a polished Romeo. Think of us as Cyrano de Bergerac, whispering words of wisdom in your ear for dishes, dates and romantic inspiration.

Sweets for a sweetie
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Searches for [valentine’s day dinner], [valentine’s day recipes], [romantic dinner] and [romantic recipes] ramp up at the start at February, hitting their peak on the 14th.

If you’re whipping up a homemade treat, you can use Google Recipe view to search for thousands of heart-shaped cookie recipes, and tailor the ingredients (and the calorie count) for the best fit.

If you’re not a maestro in the kitchen yet, we can help. Peruse some trendy dishes and learn how to cook from YouTube’s Next Chefs, who have created a highlight reel of their best aphrodisiacs. We’re not playing favorites, but we do love the Sweetest Vegan’s red velvet beet cupcakes, which will come in handy for many couples—searches for [vegan valentines] have more than tripled since 2006.

Don’t know a truffle from a trifle? Then let a professional handle the meal. If you haven’t booked a table yet, you’re not alone: searches for [valentines day reservations] typically peak on February 9 and remain high through the holiday. For ideas, check out Zagat’s recommendations for romantic hotspots in your neighborhood. A word to the wise, though: If you’re planning on popping the question on Valentine’s Day, avoid dining out, as 69 percent of those surveyed in Zagat’s recent Valentine’s Day Survey feel that restaurant proposals are “cheesy.”

Perfect planners and last-minute cupids
Women have a head start on the menfolk when it comes to Valentine’s Day gifts, searching earlier (and more often) than their male counterparts—about 160 percent more since January.

The staple romantic gifts haven’t lost their appeal. Searches for [jewelry gifts] have grown over 10 percent, searches for [flower delivery] have increased nearly 20 percent, and searches for [couples massage] have jumped nearly 50 percent over last Valentine’s Day.

To impress, some folks are thinking outside the (heart-shaped) box. For the daring, create your own [valentines scavenger hunt]—searches are up more than 20 percent from last year. Or, add a personal touch—searches for [personalized valentines day gifts] are up over 20 percent compared to last year and searches for [homemade valentines gift] are up over 60 percent since last year. The last-minute lovers don’t have to despair, though. Visit Google Shopping to find gift ideas and filter results to see which items are in stock nearby.

Celebrating solo
Celebrating Valentine’s Day solo doesn’t mark you as a Miss (or Mr.) Lonelyhearts. Instead, treat yourself to a night on the town. View interactive results for nearby movie showtimes on your mobile phone, and know that if you indulge your inner cynic by skipping the rom com and catching a horror film, you won’t be alone: in the past 30 days, searches for [horror movie] are 230 percent higher than searches for [romantic movie].

Vive la romance
Everyone loves a fairytale ending, so let’s wrap up with two final ways to make your heart grow two sizes too big today. For a close-up look at romance at its finest, check out the “Awww: Romantic Proposals” YouTube Slam. Vote for your favorite mushy, creative, artistic, or—in one case—magic proposal.

Finally, today’s homepage doodle gives a nod to love, both young and old. Though “Cold, Cold Heart” plays in the background, we bet yours will warm just a bit.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

(Cross-posted on the Inside Search blog)

While you may have heard of Brazil’s Carnival (or Carnaval), not everyone will have the chance to fly to Brazil to experience what are arguably the largest annual street festivals (+ music concerts + dance parties + culture fests) in the world.

Every year, Brazilian cities compete to be the country’s top Carnival destination: This year, we’re bringing you the sights, sounds and energy of Brazilian Carnival directly from the streets of Salvador (Brazil’s first capital and one of the oldest cities in the the Americas) through Google+, YouTube and Orkut.

From February 16 to 21—the height of the festival and the peak of Brazil’s summer—you’ll be able to:
  • Watch the festivities wherever you are in the world on the Carnival YouTube Channel. Starting Thursday, February 16, you’ll have access to everything from a live transmission of the streetfest to videos of bands who have traveled to Salvador to host the party. You’ll even be able to chat with other YouTube users who are watching the party with you from around the world through a map we’ve integrated just for the occasion.
  • Chat with bands and watch live interviews on Google+. Chat with some of the Brazilian bands who have joined the festivities in real time by sending questions via Google+ and Orkut. You’ll also be able to watch celebrity interviews running live throughout the week on the AoVivo (live) Google+ Page and transmitted simultaneously on YouTube and Orkut.

Even if you didn’t have a chance to get a plane ticket to Brazil, there’s no reason not to experience the energy of this year’s 2012 Carnival. Find out more about how you can be part of the party on +AoVivo, Orkut or on our Carnival YouTube Channel.

(Cross-posted from the YouTube blog)

We’re happy that today the European Commission approved our proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility, which we announced in August. This is an important milestone in the approval process and it moves us closer to closing the deal. We are now just waiting for decisions from a few other jurisdictions before we can close this transaction.

As we outlined in August, the combination of Google and Motorola Mobility will help supercharge Android. It will also enhance competition and offer consumers faster innovation, greater choice and wonderful user experiences.

Update February 13, 2012, 2:00pm: The U.S. Department of Justice has also announced that it has closed its investigation of this acquisition.

A few months ago, we shared an engagement story about a Google engineer who used Google Maps to help coordinate an elaborate proposal to his girlfriend. It served as a great example of how Google Maps can be more than just a handy tool for directions; it can help connect you to the places and people you love.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we were once again reminded of the unifying power of maps through our ongoing work with one of America’s most famous malls, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. We recently collaborated with Mall of America to conveniently bring its indoor floor plans and My Location information to Android mobile users. As the largest indoor retail space in the United States—complete with a theme park and aquarium—finding your way around Mall of America can be challenging. So we mapped it, enabling you to quickly and easily see where you are and what’s around you from the palm of your hand.

Check out the video below to see how the enormous Mall of America can be scaled down to a romantic setting for two.

Whether it’s through a customized scavenger hunt, search results for a local store with the perfect gift or the best directions to get to your date on time, we hope Google Maps helps you navigate your way to a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

(Cross-posted from the Lat Long blog)

On Tuesday, January 24, Google Waterloo opened its doors to engineers from the Kitchener-Waterloo area to participate in the first ever Ship Wars Programming Competition. The brainchild of myself and another Waterloo engineer, Garret Kelly, Ship Wars is a competition in which participants code their own intergalactic crafts in the programming language of their choice, and then battle against each other in a virtual environment. The inaugural competition proved quite popular, drawing nearly 40 participants, ready for battle.

The game itself went through a lengthy series of internal tests and refinements at the Google Waterloo office in the weeks leading up to the tournament. On the day of the event, participants quickly learned how to play and were able to code, test and enter their virtual ships into competition in under three hours. Not an easy feat!

The engineers brought their own machines (mostly laptops, but a few brought in huge desktops) to build and run their ships. After a brief overview of the rules, they were able to get started coding their ships in the language of their choice—some even switched languages mid-way through the event, changing their plan of attack. They were able to control the way the ships moved (direction and speed) and the strength of their weapons, but were only given clues as to how their ship and weapon systems would behave inside the simulation— the rest had to be deduced by playing test matches against example ships. This type of on-the-fly problem solving proved to be a unique and exciting challenge.

To test their ships in battle against other engineers’ creations, head-to-head battle stations were set up around the room. At these stations, participants could see how their ships were shaping up, watch them in action and ultimately decide what changes they could make before the final competition.

Local engineers design their virtual battleships

At the end of the evening, guests were given a tour of the Google Waterloo office while their ships “went to battle.” Thousands of simulated head-to-head battles and 15 minutes later, to the sound of much laughter and raucous cheering, the ship captains saw their results and watched replays of some of the most dramatic battles. Prizes (a Motorola Xoom Tablet, a Samsung Galaxy Tablet and a Google messenger bag) were awarded to the designers of the three ships with the most wins. For more photos, here’s a link to our album.

This wildly successful event will be expanding out to a few other Google offices in the near future. Be on the lookout, Pittsburgh and Cambridge: Ship Wars is coming to you next!

(Cross-posted from the Technical Programs and Events blog)

If you walk down the halls of our New York office, you might learn something about the history of technology. This month, our walls showcase the contributions of Black inventors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in celebration of Black History Month.

Black History Month, which is every February in the U.S., provides us with an opportunity to recognize the history and diversity of the communities where we operate. Yesterday, our midwestern Googlers listened to the music of Michigan’s only Black and Latino Orchestra and next week, Dr. Clarence Jones will be speaking to our Bay-area Googlers about writing Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. This is just a small sampling of the dozens of celebrations Googlers are hosting all month long.

Black History Month also gives us a chance to celebrate the diversity of our Googlers and highlight some ways we work with underrepresented groups. One of my favorite examples is the story of the Black Googlers Network (BGN). In June 2006, a group of Googlers looking to connect and foster community among Black colleagues got together to create an internal networking group. The Black Googlers Network started as a mailing list, but quickly grew into much more. Passionate about growing the next generation of Black leaders in the technology industry, BGN partnered with our university programs team to strengthen our relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). As a result, we’ve not only increased our recruiting presence at these schools, but are now also partnering with HBCU faculty to develop STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum, encouraging more students to pursue degrees in these areas and prepare them for careers in technology.

Members of our BGN are also shaping the way we do business. In May of 2009, two recent grads in our Ann Arbor office saw an opportunity, and what started as an idea bounced around between two twenty-somethings turned into an official Google program. The idea was to help minority-owned small businesses grow their online presence and, just a few months later, the idea became a reality when Accelerate with Google officially launched. The program has since grown into a team of several dozen Googlers, all working to get small, minority-owned businesses online and helping those business owners connect with one another.

Our passionate Googlers, like those behind BGN and Accelerate, allow us to better connect with the Black community and help to create an inclusive and diverse workplace. As we throw dozens of celebrations around the country in our Atlanta, Chicago, Ann Arbor, New York, Los Angeles and Mountain View offices to mark Black History Month, we invite you to join us by following our Google for Students and Life at Google pages on Google+, where we’ll be hosting photos, recaps and hangouts throughout the month.

Two months ago, we announced our plans to roll out a new design for the Google bar. Our goal was to create a beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google. Based on your feedback, we realized there were some elements of the new bar that we could improve, and with that in mind, we’re introducing an updated version that we believe will provide a better experience.

The new design retains many of the feature changes we made in November that proved popular, including a unified search box and Google+ sharing and notifications across Google. The biggest change is that we’ve replaced the drop-down Google menu with a consistent and expanded set of links running across the top of the page.

We'll be rolling out this new version of the Google bar over the next few weeks. In the meantime, we invite you to read about the new design in our Help Center, and send us your feedback.

This morning, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced the election of 66 new members, including our very own Amit Singhal, Google Fellow and lead on Google Search. Amit joins a list of nine of us Googlers who have previously been recognized by the NAE: Sergey Brin, Vint Cerf, Jeff Dean, Sanjay Ghemawat, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Dick Sites, Ken Thompson and myself.

Election to the NAE is among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer. The Academy recognized Amit for his contributions to information retrieval and search, where Amit has creatively applied and extended the science of information retrieval to new heights that were almost unthinkable when the field was founded. In so doing, he has had a tremendous and beneficial impact on the world with sustained excellence of Google’s search.

Amit was similarly recognized by the Association of Computing Machinery two months ago. I encourage you to read more about his important contributions in our blog post from December. Congratulations to Amit!

Bestselling Southern American author Anne Rice is coming to Google headquarters to discuss her latest book, The Wolf Gift, on Friday, February 24 at 10am PT. One of the most popular authors of contemporary fiction, Rice has bewitched readers with her vampire chronicles, tales of the Mayfair Witches and other metaphysical gothic fiction for more than thirty years. Submit your question online between now and Feb 23 at midnight PT, and it could be asked during the Interview with the Vampire—we mean, the interview with Anne Rice. To watch the live broadcast, tune in to the Authors@Google YouTube channel on February 24 at 10am PT. If you miss it, the recording will be posted in its entirety after the interview is over. For more information on Anne Rice and her new book, read the full post on the Google Books blog.

In 2008, we launched Google Chrome to help make the web better. We’re excited that millions of people around the world use Chrome as their primary browser and we want to keep improving that experience. Today, we're introducing Chrome for Android Beta, which brings many of the things you’ve come to love about Chrome to your Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich phone or tablet. Like the desktop version, Chrome for Android Beta is focused on speed and simplicity, but it also features seamless sign-in and sync so you can take your personalized web browsing experience with you wherever you go, across devices.

With Chrome for Android, you can search, navigate and browse fast—Chrome fast. You can scroll through web pages as quickly as you can flick your finger. When searching, your top search results are loaded in the background as you type so pages appear instantly. And of course, both search and navigation can all be done quickly from the Chrome omnibox.

Chrome for Android is designed from the ground up for mobile devices. We reimagined tabs so they fit just as naturally on a small-screen phone as they do on a larger screen tablet. You can flip or swipe between an unlimited number of tabs using intuitive gestures, as if you’re holding a deck of cards in the palm of your hands, each one a new window to the web.

One of the biggest pains of mobile browsing is selecting the correct link out of several on a small-screen device. Link Preview does away with hunting and pecking for links on a web page by automatically zooming in on links to make selecting the precise one easier.

And as with Chrome on desktop, we built Chrome for Android with privacy in mind from the beginning, including incognito mode for private browsing and fine-grained privacy options (tap menu icon, ‘Settings,’ and then ‘Privacy’).

Sign in
You can now bring your personalized Chrome experience with you to your Android phone or tablet. If you sign in to Chrome on your Android device, you can:
  • View open tabs: Access the tabs you left open on your computer (also signed into Chrome)—picking up exactly where you left off.
  • Get smarter suggestions: If you visit a site often on your computer, you'll also get an autocomplete suggestion for it on your mobile device, so you can spend less time typing.
  • Sync bookmarks: Conveniently access your favorite sites no matter where you are or which device you’re using.

Chrome is now available in Beta from Android Market, in select countries and languages for phones and tablets with Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich. We’re eager to hear your feedback. Finally, we look forward to working closely with the developer community to create a better web on a platform that defines mobile.

(Cross-posted from the Chrome blog and on the Mobile blog)

Last week, we ran an experiment. We hosted a gathering, called “Solve for X,” for experienced entrepreneurs, innovators and scientists from around the world. The event focused on proposing and discussing technological solutions to some of the world’s greatest problems. Discussions began last week with this small event, and now we invite others to join the conversation on our website and our Google +page.

The Solve for X gathering, which we co-hosted with Eric Schmidt, is a place to celebrate a concept we champion internally and that we believe will inspire many others: technology moonshots. These are efforts that take on global-scale problems, define radical solutions to those problems, and involve some form of breakthrough technology that could actually make them happen. Moonshots live in the gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction; they are 10x improvement, not 10%. That’s partly what makes them so exciting.

Moonshots can come from anywhere—people of all ages and places, companies, academia, inspired experts, enthusiastic newcomers, and often from accidental discoveries. Take this Solve for X talk by Adrien Treuille, a professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon University. He proposes that going forward significant science and technological advances will come from individual contributors—independent of their official affiliations or training. It sounds implausible, but he makes the case by discussing EteRNA and Foldit, scientific discovery games where individual gamers are lapping the best computer programs in DNA folding and RNA nano-fabrication problems. Rob McGinnis, co-founder of Oasys, suggests in his Solve for X talk that fresh water could be produced everywhere in the world at less than one-tenth the energy input or cost to the environment of what’s possible today. It sounds too good to be true because the world needs fresh water so very desperately, yet Rob is exploring dramatic technological breakthroughs in desalination to make this moonshot into a possible reality.

You can watch these videos and others on our site now, and we will add more in the coming week. Just wait to hear Mary Lou Jepsen’s Solve for X talk on how it may literally be possible to take pictures of the mind’s eye! The potential impact of this technology on the way we communicate, preserve memories and understand ourselves is staggering. Or consider Daphne Preuss, a leading geneticist who moved from academia to pursue plant genetics in order to help make the planet healthier and find ways to feed more people. She doesn’t plan to take on her moonshot herself, but she has a strong vision for what it would take to get it done and why it’s so important.

Our gathering last week brought together a group that is already practiced at moonshot thinking to propose specific solutions. At least a few times a year, we hope that people will take a few hours or a day or two out of their busy schedules to dare to push the boundaries, and to consider moonshot approaches to some of the world’s many unresolved challenges. Solve for X isn’t about developing a new business line or building an investment portfolio. Rather, it aims to be a forum where technology-based moonshot thinking is practiced, celebrated and amplified. We invite you to come collaborate with us at

The newest addition to the Google scholarships family is the Google Student Veterans of America (SVA) Scholarship. We’re partnering with the nonprofit Student Veterans of America (SVA) to support their mission of providing veterans with the resources, support and advocacy they need to succeed in higher education and throughout their careers. The Google SVA Scholarship is available to student veterans who are pursuing degrees in computer science and related fields in the U.S. for the 2012-2013 academic year. In addition to the financial award, recipients will be invited to attend the annual all-expenses-paid scholars’ retreat at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif. in the summer of 2012.

We have a long history of helping university students pursue computer science education with scholarship and internship opportunities. Since our first scholarships were awarded in 2004, we’ve provided over $8.8 million dollars of financial support to 2,100 students from historically underrepresented groups worldwide. Our academic scholarship programs are just one part of our global effort to increase the diversity of the technology industry and invest in the next generation of computer scientists. This mission includes ensuring that student veterans in the U.S. have the support they need to pursue technology education and careers.

Google’s commitment to military veterans extends beyond our educational outreach efforts. The Google Veterans Network, one of our 18 employee groups dedicated to supporting diversity and inclusion at Google, fosters a community of support for our military veterans, reservists, guardsmen, family members and friends. In 2011, we introduced a customized job search engine called the Veterans Job Bank in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Members of our veterans’ community also partnered with the Google Creative Lab to launch Chrome for Wounded, Ill and Injured Warriors and to create Google for Veterans and Families, a new online resource that brings together our free products and platforms for service members and their families. As a Google engineer and a Marine veteran, I’m proud of our commitment to diversity and of our efforts to bring other veterans into the world of technology and computer science.

The deadline to apply for the Google SVA Scholarship is March 15, 2012.

For complete scholarship details, visit our scholarship programs page.

(Cross-posted from the Google Student blog)

Now that the final Super Bowl touchdown has been scored, the dip bowl wiped clean and the last of the chicken wings devoured, we’re taking a look at some game-day search trends to see what football fans were searching for this year.

As the Giants and Patriots battled it out on the field yesterday, U.S. viewers multi-tasked, watching the game on television and also going online more than ever before, turning to their smartphones and tablets to look up players, halftime show performers and their favorite Super Bowl commercials. In fact, around 41% of searches related to [Super Bowl ads] that were made during the game came from mobile devices, up from 25% for the same time the day prior.

Overall, the top trending searches on Google during the game were:
  1. Madonna
  2. Halftime show
  3. Patriots
  4. Tom Brady
  5. Giants
This was the first year that the Super Bowl was live streamed, and there was a significant spike in searches related to Super Bowl live streaming on game day. Searches peaked at kickoff, and were made predominantly on desktop, followed by mobile phones and then tablets. Searches for the Spanish language version of the live stream made the list of top trending queries, and while it may have been after midnight on the other side of the Atlantic, we still saw searches for [Super Bowl 2012 übertragung] and [w9 streaming] in Germany and France, respectively.

The Giants claimed the game in a down-to-the-wire nail biter; however, the Patriots edged them out in searches. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady not only broke Joe Montana’s record for the most consecutive completions at a Super Bowl, he also scored the most searches out of all the players. Eli Manning, Victor Cruz, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Woodhead rounded out the top five players trending during the game.

The Material Girl Madonna took the honor of being the most-searched for term during the game, but other celebrities that caught viewers’ eyes included Super Bowl performers LMFAO, Kelly Clarkson and Nicki Minaj. Searches for Katherine McPhee’s soon-to-premiere NBC show [Smash] beat out searches for David Beckham’s H&M ad campaign.

Finally, no Super Bowl wrap-up would be complete without talking about the commercials. 2012 saw a pre-Super Bowl ad bonanza, with many of the top commercials either being teased or posted in full well in advance of the game. Super Bowl ads or ad teasers were watched more than 30 million times on YouTube before the big weekend this year (you can read more on the top rising Super Bowl searches on YouTube here).

Game day searches for [super bowl ads] were 122 times higher than the same time last week. The most popular commercials in terms of Google searches were ads from Acura, GoDaddy and M&M’s. Searches for The Avengers movie trailer were also trending, along with Chrysler’s spot featuring Clint Eastwood.

Now that you’ve seen them all, vote for your favorite commercial of the game on the YouTube Ad Blitz channel. The winning ads will be showcased on the YouTube homepage on February 18.

To download the full infographic above, visit Think Insights, our website for marketers. Our final Ad Blitz infographic (coming soon) will include new facts and stats about Super Bowl ads, and you can follow Think with Google on Google+ to be the first to know when it's released.

That’s it for the NFL 2012 season, but luckily, major league baseball is just around the corner...

Update 10:09am: Earlier, this post incorrectly stated that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady broke Joe Montana’s record for the most touchdown passes at a Super Bowl, instead of most consecutive completions. This post has been updated to correct the error.

Computers store every piece of text using a “character encoding,” which gives a number to each character. For example, the byte 61 stands for ‘a’ and 62 stands for ‘b’ in the ASCII encoding, which was launched in 1963. Before the web, computer systems were siloed, and there were hundreds of different encodings. Depending on the encoding, C1 could mean any of ¡, Ё, Ą, Ħ, ‘, ”, or parts of thousands of characters, from æ to 品. If you brought a file from one computer to another, it could come out as gobbledygook.

Unicode was invented to solve that problem: to encode all human languages, from Chinese (中文) to Russian (русский) to Arabic (العربية), and even emoji symbols like or
; it encodes nearly 75,000 Chinese ideographs alone. In the ASCII encoding, there wasn’t even enough room for all the English punctuation (like curly quotes), while Unicode has room for over a million characters. Unicode was first published in 1991, coincidentally the year the World Wide Web debuted—little did anyone realize at the time they would be so important for each other. Today, people can easily share documents on the web, no matter what their language.

Every January, we look at the percentage of the webpages in our index that are in different encodings. Here’s what our data looks like with the latest figures*:

*Your mileage may vary: these figures may vary somewhat from what other search engines find. The graph lumps together encodings by script. We detect the encoding for each webpage; the ASCII pages just contain ASCII characters, for example. Thanks again to Erik van der Poel for collecting the data.

As you can see, Unicode has experienced an 800 percent increase in “market share” since 2006. Note that we separate out ASCII (~16 percent) since it is a subset of most other encodings. When you include ASCII, nearly 80 percent of web documents are in Unicode (UTF-8). The more documents that are in Unicode, the less likely you will see mangled characters (what Japanese call mojibake) when you’re surfing the web.

We’ve long used Unicode as the internal format for all the text Google searches and process: any other encoding is first converted to Unicode. Version 6.1 just released with over 110,000 characters; soon we’ll be updating to that version and to Unicode’s locale data from CLDR 21 (both via ICU). The continued rise in use of Unicode makes it even easier to do the processing for the many languages that we cover. Without it, our unified index it would be nearly impossible—it’d be a bit like not being able to convert between the hundreds of currencies in the world; commerce would be, well, difficult. Thanks to Unicode, Google is able to help people find information in almost any language.

Women make up more than half the global population, but hold fewer than a third of the world’s engineering jobs. In the U.S., female students comprise fewer than 15 percent of all Advanced Placement computer science test takers. Even in high-tech Israel, few girls choose computer science. Not only is this a loss to companies like Google and everyone who benefits from a continually developing web; it's also a lost opportunity for girls.

Beginning in 2008, a group of female engineers at Google in Israel decided to tackle this problem. We established the “Mind the Gap!” program, aimed at encouraging girls to pursue math, science and technology education. In collaboration with the Israeli National Center for Computer Science Teachers, we began organizing monthly school visits for different groups of girls to the Google office and annual tech conferences at local universities and institutes. The girls learn about computer science and technology and get excited about its applications, as well as have a chance to talk with female engineers in an informal setting and see what the working environment is like for them.

Since we started this program over three years ago, we’ve hosted more than 1,100 teenage girls at our office, and an additional 1,400 girls at three annual conferences held in leading universities. These 2,500 students represent 100 schools from all sectors and from all over the country: Tel Aviv, Haifa, Tira, Beer-Sheva, Jerusalem, Nazareth and more; what they have in common is the potential to become great computer scientists.

The results are encouraging. For instance, some 40 percent of the girls who participated in last year’s conference later chose computer science as a high school major.

We encourage people in other countries, at other companies and in other scientific disciplines to see how they could replicate this program. You can read more at the project site. Currently, we are working with the Google in Education group to expand the program to more offices globally and get even more young women excited about computer science. The difference we can make is real: At one of our first visits three years ago, we met a 10th grade student named Keren who enjoyed math but had never considered computer science as a high school major. Last month, Keren informed us that the visit made such an impact on her, she decided to change her major to computer science. “Talking to women in the field helped me change my mind,” she said.

While thousands of lucky fans will brave the crowds at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. to fill the coveted seats at this Sunday’s Super Bowl, many more in the U.S. will enjoy the game from home—in front of the TV, with mobile phones and tablets at the ready.

As the New York Giants and New England Patriots prepare for kickoff, here are several ways to make the most of the big game with Google—wherever you’re watching. You can explore the full list in our Game Day with Google playbook, a new page on Inside Search that we’ve filled with tips on how to use Google to enjoy the game.

Get the inside scoop
Visit the Giants and Patriots Google+ pages for behind-the-scenes coverage and details on a chance for you to join the Giants pre-game hangout on Thursday for a face-to-face chat with the players. Be sure to leave a comment on their post for a chance to participate.

On Monday, Feb 6 at noon ET, stop by the NBC Sports Google+ page for a Hangout On Air with CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell. He’ll chat about the previous day’s game and review the best commercials with fans that drop in. Leave a comment on this NBC Sports post to throw your name in the hat to be one of the lucky participants who will chat with Rovell On Air.

Plan your party
Super Bowl party rivalry is already in full swing with Indiana leading the pack in Google searches for [super bowl party], ahead of both New York and Massachusetts. Despite New York being the home state of the buffalo wing, searches for [chicken wings] are nearly 50 percent higher in Massachusetts.

If you’re looking for a dip recipes, [hummus] reigns supreme, followed by guacamole, queso and bean dip. Use Google Recipe search to find a recipe with the ingredients to make everyone happy. Or, swing by ChefHangout on Google+ to join a cooking class on favorite Super Bowl party foods.

Talking babies or barking dogs? You decide.
It wouldn’t be the Super Bowl without the commercials. We’ve already seen a flurry of pre-game teasers pop up on YouTube and Google+, but which commercial will reign supreme? Our fifth annual YouTube Ad Blitz in partnership with NBC Sports enables you to replay and vote on your favorite commercials online from a laptop, mobile phone or tablet. Tune in to the YouTube Ad Blitz channel or to watch and rate the commercials.

Watch the Madonna premiere on YouTube
If the halftime show interests you more than counting yards gained and lost, get an early taste of the show with Madonna’s music video premiere for “Give Me All Your Luvin” featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A on her official channel this Friday and on the YouTube Ad Blitz channel pre-game on Sunday. You can pre-order her deluxe album right there in the video description. And make sure to tune in to Madonna’s Google+ profile all week long for her latest news.

May the best team win!